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tv   U.S. Senate  CSPAN  July 20, 2011 12:00pm-5:00pm EDT

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quorum call: mr. johnson: mr. president? the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota. sorry. mr. johnson: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be presinnedded. the presiding officer: without
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objection. what is the pending business? the presiding officer: under the previous order, the question is on the vitter amendment. mr. johnson: mr. president, the vitter amendment pending before the senate is another attempt to derail the progress that we have made in a bipartisan fashion on the milcon-v.a. bill. the senate has voted twice on this issue during consideration of this bill. at the outset of debate, the ranking member of the budget committee raised a point of order against consideration of this bill without prior adoption of a budget resolution. i made a motion to waive the
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budget point of order and the senate voted 71-26 to cut off debate on the motion to waive. the senate then agreed to waive the point of order 56-40. now we have an amendment that says that none of the critical funding provided in the bill can be obligated in excess of a budget resolution that does not exist. the strictest interpretation of this means that the v.a. can't spend money for vets and our military can't construct new training, housing or other critical facilities until we have a concurrent budget agreement. i don't disagree that it is important to pass a budget but the senate has overwhelmingly voted to move this bill so as to
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not delay essential funding for our troops and vets while negotiations on the debt ceiling and budget continue. i remind my colleagues that this bill is $618 million below the current level, $1.25 million below the president's budget request and $2.6 million below the house-passed bill. this is a responsible and bipartisan bill and the pending amendment would stop all progress we have made. therefore, i move to table the amendment number 568 and ask for the yeas and nays. the presiding officer: is there a sufficient second? is there a sufficient second? there is a sufficient second. the clerk will call the roll.
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the presiding officer: are there any senators wishing to change his or her vote or to vote? hearing no voices, the motion -- the vote is 69 ayes, the nays are 30. the motion to table has been approved. mr. johnson: move to reconsider.
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the presiding officer: under the previous order, the motion to reconsider is considered made and laid upon the table. mr. johnson: i move the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota. mr. johnson: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be rescinded. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. johnson: i ask unanimous consent that the senate proceed to a period of morning business until 2:15 p.m., with senators permitted to speak for up to ten minutes each. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. johnson: i note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll.
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quorum call: quorum call:
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mr. durbin: mr. president. the presiding officer: the senator from illinois. mr. durbin: are we in a quorum call? the presiding officer: we are. mr. durbin: i ask consent it be suspended. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. durbin: mr. president, we are going to move this afternoon to a debate on our budget and particularly the debt ceiling we face on august 2. the proposal that is before us was enacted by the house yesterday on a virtually partisan roll call with maybe one or two exceptions, but the republicans passed a proposal which they have characterized as cut, cap and balance, and they
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will bring it to the floor of the senate for consideration. it tries to project spending targets and cuts in spending for the years to come and also to include in the conversation the balanced budget amendment. now, it is interesting the way they approach it because the balanced budget amendment is literally an amendment to the constitution of the united states, and those of us who take our oath seriously -- and i assume that's every member of the congress, the senate especially -- understand that we are sworn to uphold this constitution. in other words, it is to be treated as the guiding document for our actions as members of congress. i have taken that oath many times as a house and senate member and i take it seriously, and i also because of that oath am skeptical of those who come forward and want to amend the constitution on a regular basis. we have 27 amendments to the constitution. they have been enacted over the course of our nation's history.
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they address some of the most serious issues and most historic moments in our history, and i think that we should address that document, that constitution with an air of humility, a feeling that before we add our words, whatever they may be to this great document that has endured for more than 200 years, we should take care and be serious about it. now, i don't often question the motives or the intentions of others who come to the floor, and i won't do it in this instance, but i will tell you, mr. president, that to have before us, as we will later in the day, a proposal that we amend the constitution of the united states by choosing one of three options -- and that literally is what we will face -- three different versions of a balanced budget amendment to the constitution and what we will consider here will address choosing one of them.
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i don't think that we were elected to the united states senate and sworn to uphold the constitution to be part of a multiple choice test about what the next amendment will be. i think we should be much more serious in our undertaking. and i also tell you, mr. president, that i have been here in congress long enough to remember a little bit of history. there once was a president named ronald reagan, and ronald reagan as president of the united states was at the leadership position of the united states at a critical moment in our history. there is no question about it. and some amazing things occurred during his administration. but when it came to the budget side of things, there were also -- there was some history made there as well. we are considering the debt ceiling debt of the united stat. what is the debt ceiling of the united states? the debt ceiling of the united states is the authority congress gives to the president to borrow money, and each year, the treasury secretary will call the
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president and say i need additional authority to borrow money. why does he ask for additional authority? because congress, house and senate, sent requests for more spending, and the president has to borrow money to honor those requests. how much does the president have to borrow? in this day and age, about 40 cents for every dollar we spend. and so the president has been told that august 2 is the drop-dead date. he needs more authority to borrow money for the actions taken by congress. example: many members of congress, evening some who now say they won't give the president this authority, voted for america to go to war. not once but twice. and in so voting, for example, on the war in afghanistan, they are committing the united states of america to spending spending $10 billion a month in defense of our men and women in
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uniform, members of our family who are over there waging this war. they voted for that. now president obama has said to them the bill's coming in for the war in afghanistan, i have to borrow money to pay for it. and these same members of congress, house and senate, who voted for the war in afghanistan are now saying we won't pay the bills, we won't extend the debt ceiling, we won't allow you, mr. president, to borrow the money to sustain our military forces in afghanistan. that is literally what we're talking about here in this debate. the american people are starting to come to understand it because when you first ask a person do you want to extend the debt ceiling, the obvious answer is no, are you crazy, senator? why would i want more debt in this country? we need less debt, not more. don't you get it? understandably, that's the public reaction, but when you go to the point of explaining that this is to pay for things we have already -- debts we have already incurred -- and it isn't just to wage a war.
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it's a debt incurred to pay for medicare. we said to 65-year-olds across america you get a health insurance plan called medicare and it will be there when you need it. when you go to the hospital and turn in your bills, we'll pay that doctor and pay that hospital, and we borrow money to do it. mr. brown: will the assistant majority leader yield? mr. durbin: i will. mr. brown: i just walked in. i appreciate your comments about where we were. 10 years ago, we had a budget surplus in this country, as you recall. we had had a number of years of quarter after quarter after quarter of economic growth, and we know that, you know, when you have economic growth, obviously the budget gets in a better situation, but then it was the tax cuts in 2001 and 2003 that i believe you opposed, as i did, in the house of representatives that went overwhelmingly with the wealthiest taxpayers and then the two wars that you talk about that the people enthusiasts -- some, not you,
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enthusiastically voted for but didn't see the reason to pay for them, and then this medicare bill which provided -- which was basically a bailout to the insurance and the drug companies in the name of privatizing medicare and, you know, providing -- and then we're in a situation now where we're simply trying to pay the bills. and i appreciate your thoughts and your commends about where does that take us. it seems to me it's not like raising your credit card debt limit. these are obligations we have that we have to be responsible elected officials and as we would responsible citizens to pay the debts and the obligations that we have incurred as -- as a nation, correct? mr. durbin: that's correct, and i would say to the senator from ohio that when you look back in history, since 1939 when we had this debt ceiling, president after president has extended the debt ceiling because the cost of government, the debt of the united states has generally gone up in most administrations. the record holder for extending the debt ceiling in the united states history since 1939, president ronald reagan.
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on 18 different occasions during an eight-year period of time, he extended the debt ceiling because during his administration we tripled, tripled our national debt. and so he needed to keep borrowing. so to say that this is -- debt ceiling extension is the product of a democratic president is to mistake the case. every president has faced it. ronald reagan asked for those debt ceiling extensions more than any others. when it comes to incurring debt in eight years in office, ronald reagan has the record for tripling the national debt. coming in second, george w. bush for doubling the national debt while he was in office and asking on seven different occasions for us to extend the debt ceiling. so the point i'm making is president obama's request to extend the debt ceiling, there is ample history, some 89 different times that we have done that, and it's done to pay for obligations we have already made, debts we have already incurred.
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now, what happens if we don't extend the debt ceiling? well, what would happen if the durbin family in springfield, illinois, did not make its mortgage payment on our home this month? not good. we're likely to get a call from the bank at some point saying you probably overlooked it, but there was a mortgage payment due. and if you said no, we're just not going to pay it, we're not going to continue to borrow money from your bank, they would say there are consequences. and the same thing's true if you don't extend the debt ceiling. if we don't extend the debt ceiling of the united states and authorize the president of the united states to borrow money to meet our obligations, two things will happen. the credit report on the united states of america is not going to look good the next day. same thing's true for individuals and families. you don't pay your bills, your credit report doesn't look so hot. well, what's the difference? whefor the united states of america, it means the triple-a credit rating that we have enjoyed throughout our history will be in danger. it means that the interest rates
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charged to the chaits fo unitedr our own debt will go up and interest rates across the economy will go up, affecting every business and family in america that borrows money, which would be most families and businesses in america. raising interest rates with this high rate of unemployment is exactly the wrong thing to do. every single day the federal reserve under ben bernanke and his board of governors sits down and tries to figure out a way to keep interest rates low so the economy will grow and jobs will be created. if we have a self-inflicted wound here of not extending the debt ceiling, the net result of this is going to be a higher interest rate on our government and a higher interest rate on families and businesses. a 1% increase, 1% increase in the interest rate paid by our government on its debt costs us $130 billion a year. 1%. so we're running the risk missing the deadline of august 2, of raising that interest
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rate, killing jobs, making it more difficult for businesses to expand and increasing the deficit. can you imagine three worse outcomes at this moment in our history? so when members of the senate and house come here and make these pious pronouncements i'm never going to vote for an extension of the debt ceiling, they are jeopardizing our economic recovery and the debt that we face. now, some of them have said, i'll tell you what, i'll vote for a debt ceiling if we can amend the constitution and put in a balanced budget amendment. mr. president, throughout my time of service in the house and senate, i have never, underline "never," voted for a balanced budget amendment, and here's the reason. you don't need the constitution to tell you what to do. we know what we need to do. and we should have the will to do it. for those who have been guilty of voting for all this spending and now want a balanced budget amendment to the discussion, it reminds me of the person who says, "i won't promise you that i won't steal again, but i will
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vote for the ten commandments." well, great. wouldn't it be better if you changed your conduct and the way you acted? wouldn't it be better if congress dealt with this budget deficit forthrightly? and we can. now, for those who say, you don't have a very good track record. they're right. but efforts are underway. i'm part of what's known as the group of six, which is expanding in size, which is trying to on a bipartisan basis, democrats and republicans, come up with a way through this budget deficit problem. now, it is not easy. we've been at it for more than six months. we have produced a plan which is now being carefully scrutinized and will be worked on i am sure for a long time to come but it moves us in the direction of $4 trillion in deficit reduction. it does it by putting everything on the table. everything. spending cuts, entitlement programs, and revenue. now, spending cuts are easy compared to the other two. easier for us, i might add,
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because they generally involve future spending and we make the reductions thinking perhaps it won't have the negative impact in the future that some imagine. when it comes to the entitlement programs, we deal i think with a different mind-set when it comes to the american people. i believe that social security and medicare have become even more important to american families than they were 25 years ago because of the vulnerability of families today. many families that had planned for their retirement had saved some money, maybe they had a pension plan at work, and then they had social security. well, over the years, perhaps the savings took a hit when the stock market went down some 30% a few years ago. many of the pension plans didn't survive corporate restructuring or bankruptcy and social security was the last game in town for a lot of people retiring. so when you talk about changing social security, people all across america, 40 million or 50 million americans, perk up and say, "ah, senator, what do
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you have in mind because we're counting on it and we don't want you to mess it up." here's what i can say about social security. untouched with no changes -- no changes -- social security will make every promised payment with a cost-of-living adjustment for 25 years. 25 years. now, that's pretty good. there isn't another program in government that can say the same thing. but what happens at the end of 25 years? then the trouble starts. we start running out of money and reducing social security payments 22%, about one-fifth or a little more of the payment that a person's receiving today would disappear in 25 years. so what we are talking about in all of the deficit conversations is to find ways to extend the life and solvency of social security and there are ways to do it. we have talked about a variety of different ways to do it. any savings and social security will stay in social security. it's like las vegas. we are going to make sure that the savings we put in social security will be reinvested in
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the program to make it stronger longer. i also want the program to be fair. we all do. in terms of the beneficiaries, particularly the most vulnerable beneficiaries. mr. president, about 20% of social security beneficiaries, the lowest 20%, are below the poverty line even after they get the social security check. we need to change that. we shouldn't allow that to happen. these are mainly elderly people who, with the helping hand of our government and social security, should be lifted above the poverty level. medicare much the same. if we don't deal with medicare, the increasing cost of health care is going to cause that program to run into trouble. and what we need to do is to make certain at the end we protect the benefits under medicare but find ways to reduce the cost. we have to reward value rather than volume when it comes to medical treatment, and we have to keep our promise to the
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medicare beneficiaries. now, there have been proposals made. one was made by the house republicans in their budget, the so-called paul ryan budget, which would have dramatically changed medicare. out-of-pocket expenditures by senior citizens would have more than doubled to $6,000 a year, $500 a month by a person who is retired can be a hardship, if not an impossibility. and even worse, the house republican budget would have taken medicare as we know it and turned itup side-down and sai said -- and turned it upside-down, and said in the future, under the medicare plan, medicare is going to be managed in the tender, loving arms of private health insurance companies. i don't think most americans feel a sense of confidence or rethree hear that. so as we begin this debate this afternoon on the so-called cut, cap and balance, the point i want to make is this. we should not be considering a plan which does not put in specific language a balanced budget amendment but asks members of the united states
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senate to vote for a multiple choice test as to what your next amendment to the constitution will look like. secondly, we should carefully scrutinize every word of that amendment. those who have say that they are poorly drafted and have no place in the most important document in america. and, third, let's accept the responsibility to do what we were elected to do: to reduce spending, to bring this budget to balance, and to do it in a sensible, humane way. the notion that we should somehow amend our constitution and wait for three-fourths of the states to ratify it is in my mind not responsible. i'm going to oppose this. i'm not going to oppose efforts to reduce our deficit but i'm going to oppose this notion that somehow a balanced budget amendment to the constitution is going to be our salvation. as the old pogo cartoon used to say, "we've met the enemy and they are us." we've got to do this ourselves, members of the united states senate on both sides of the aisle. mr. president, i yield the floor and suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk
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will call the roll. quorum call:
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recognized. mr. sanders: i ask that the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. sanders: mr. president, if there was ever a time in the modern history of america that the american people become engaged in what's going on here in washington, now is that time. decisions are being made as we speak which will impact not only our generation but the lives of our children and our grandchildren for decades to come, and i fear very much that the decisions being contemplated are not good decisions, are not fair decisions. right now, there is a lot of
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discussion about two things. number one, the importance of the united states not defaulting for the first time in our history on our debts, and i think there is increased understanding that that would be a disaster for the american economy, that would be a disaster for the world's economy, and we should not do that. but secondly, there is increased discussion now on long-term deficit reduction, how we address the crisis which we face today of a record-breaking deficit, $1.4 trillion and a a $14 trillion-plus national debt, a debt, by the way, that was caused by two unpaid wars, huge tax breaks for the wealthiest people in this country, a medicare part-d prescription drug program written by the insurance companies and the lack of revenues coming in because of a recession caused by the greed and recklessness and illegal
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behavior on wall street. be that as it may, regardless of how we got to where we are right now, there are efforts to develop long-term deficit reduction plans, and one of them has to do with a so-called gang of six. while we do not know all of the details of that proposal, -- in fact, we never will because a lot of that proposal boots the issue to committees like the finance committee who have to work out the details and no one can know what those details will be at this time -- i think it is fair to say that senator coburn, senator crapo and senator chambliss deserve a word of congratulations. clearly, they have won this debate in a very, very significant way. my guess is that they will probably get 80% or 90% of what
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they wanted. in this town, that is quite an achievement, but they have stood firm in their desire to represent the wealthy and the powerful and multinational corporations. they have threatened. they have been very smart in a number of ways. they have been determined, and at the end of the day, they will get 80% or 90% of what they want. that is their victory, and i congratulate them on their victory. unfortunately, their victory will be a disaster for working families in this country, for the elderly, for the sick, for the children and for low-income people. and i did want to mention, based on the limited information that we have -- and as i get more information, i will be on the floor more often, but i think it is important to at least highlight some of what is in this so-called gang of six that the corporate media, among
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others, is enthralled about. some may remember that for a number of years, leading democrats said that we will do everything that we can to protect social security, that social security has been an extraordinary success in our country, that for 75 years, with such volatility in the economy, social security has paid out every nickel owed to every eligible american, and i heard democrats say that social security has nothing to do with the deficit, and that is right because social security is funded by the payroll tax, not by the u.s. treasury. social security has a a $2.6 trillion surplus today, can pay out every benefit owed to every eligible american for the next 25 years, an enormously popular program. poll after poll from the american people says don't cut
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social security. two and a half years ago when barack obama, then-senator from illinois -- then senator from illinois, ran for president of the united states, he made it very clear if you vote for him, no cuts in social security, and yet what senators coburn, crapo and chambliss have managed to do and the gang of six is reach an agreement where there will be major, major cuts in social security. don't let anybody kid you about this being some minor thing. it is not. what we are talking about is that under this so-called gang of six proposal, social security cuts would go into effect by the year 2012, virtually immediately. and what that means is that ten years from now, the typical 75-year-old person will see their social security benefits cut by $560 a year, and the
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average 85-year-old will see a cut of $1,000 a year. now, for some people here in washington, maybe the big lobbyists who make hundreds of thousands a year, $560 a year or or $1,000 a year may not seem like a lot of money, but if you are a senior trying to get by on on $14,000, $15,000, $18,000 a year and you're 85 years old, the end of your life, you're totally vulnerable, you're sick, sick, $1,000 a year cut in what you otherwise would have received is a major, major blow. so i congratulate senator coburn, senator crapo, senator chambliss for doing what president obama said would not happen under his watch, what the democrats have said would not happen under their watch, major cuts in social security. but it's not just social
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security. we have 50 million americans today who have no health insurance at all. under the gang of six proposal, there will be cuts in medicare over a ten-year period of almost almost $300 billion. there will be massive cuts in medicaid and other health care programs. there will be caps on spending, which mean that there will be major cuts in education if you are a working class family, hoping that you're going to be able to send your kid to college and that you will be eligible for a pell grant, think twice about that because that pell grant may not be there. if you're a senior who relies on a nutrition program, that nutrition program may not be there. if you think it's a good idea that we enforce kathleen air and clean water provisions so that our kids can be healthy, those
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provisions may not be there because there will be major cuts in environmental protection. now, i have heard some people say well, you know, all that's not so good, but at least finally our republican friends are saying we need revenue and we're going to get $1 billion in revenue. mr. president, let me ask you this, if you read the outline of the gang of six proposal -- which is admittedly big. i think they would acknowledge that they don't have all of the details -- there are very, very clear provisions making sure that we are going to make massive cuts in programs for working families, for the elderly, for the children. those cuts are written in black and white. what about the revenue? well, it's kind of vague, kind of vague. the project is that we would raise over a ten-year period period $100 billion in revenue.
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where is that going to come? is it necessarily going to come from the wealthiest people in this exun? is it going to come from large corporations who are enjoying huge tax breaks? mr. president, that is not clear at all. and what happens if we don't reach that revenue of of $1 trillion? what mechanism is in place to say that it happens? that mechanism in fact does not exist at all. what we do know -- and we know in fairness and i think the authors of this proposal would acknowledge this, not all the details are out there, but certainly i want middle-class families to understand that when we talk about increased revenues, do you know where that comes from? that may come from, where it may come from. it may come from cutbacks in the home mortgage interest deduction program, which is so very important to millions and millions of families. it may mean that if you have a health care program today, that health care program may be
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taxed. that's a way to raise revenue. it may be that there will be increased taxes on your retirement programs, your i.r.a.'s, your 401-k's. but we don't have the details for that. all we have is some kind of vague promise that we're going to raise $1 trillion over the next ten years, no enforcement mechanism and no clarity as to where that revenue will come from. so, mr. president, i think that it is terribly important that the american people become engaged in this debate which will have a huge impact not only on them, on their parents and on their children, and i believe very strongly that what the american people must fight for is not a big deal or a small deal but a fair deal. at a time when the wealthiest
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people in this country are doing phenomenally well and their effective tax rate is the lowest on record, at a time when the top 400 individuals in this country own more wealth than 150 million americans, at a time when corporate profits are soaring and in many instances corporations, these same corporations pay nothing in taxes, at a time when we have tripled military spending since 1997, there are fair ways to move toward deficit reduction which do not slash programs that working families and children and the elderly desperately depend upon. so, mr. president, i feel that the issue we're dealing with is of enormous consequence. it is clear our republican friends have succeeded, and i
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congratulate them on getting 80%, 90% of what they wanted. i would like people to think back three years ago, just three years ago to think that there would be a serious proposal on the floor of the senate with all of these devastating cuts. i think very few people would have thought that possible. so i congratulate my republican colleagues for their apparent victory, but this senator is going to fight back. i was not elected to the united states senate to make devastating cuts in social security, in medicare, in medicaid, in children's programs while i lower tax rates for the wealthiest people in this country. that's not what i was elected to do and i do not intend to do that. so, mr. president, i hope the american people get engaged in this issue, stand up and demand that the united states congress pass a fair and responsible deficit reduction program, not what we are talking about today. and with that, mr. president, i
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would yield the floor. and note the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call: quorum call: mr. president?
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the presiding officer: the senator from washington is recognized. mrs. murray: i ask unanimous consent that the quorum call be lifted. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. murray: mr. president, i come to the floor this afternoon to oppose the amendment that has
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been offered by the senator from oklahoma that would undo decades of policy on how we treat veterans who are suffering from diseases associated with agent orange exposure, and that violates the promise we have made to a generation of veterans. mr. president, the legacy of agent orange exposure among vietnam veterans is one of tragedy, roadblocks, neglect, pain, and then more roadblocks. it's the legacy of our merit spraying millions of gallons of poissonous herb -- poisonous herbside indiscriminately without any repercussions. the time of the vietnam war and for far too long after it the u.s. government neglected to trash agent orange exposures. then in the decades following the war, our government stonewalled veterans who developed horrible aiments, ailments of all kinds from those
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exposures. and to further compound the problem, for decades our government failed to fund any research on agent orange and any other toxins that vietnam veterans were exposed to. those decades of neglect, those mistakes have a cost. it is a cost to the veterans and their loved ones, it is a cost to the government that sent them to war, and it is a cost to all of us as americans. and it is a cost that even in difficult budget times, even with our back against the wall, we can't walk away from it. now, mr. president, i'm not here to question any as if in morning business's commitment to -- any senators commitment to our veterans. what i am here to do is to question the standard by which this amendment says that they should be treated. this amendment that's been offered says we should change the standard by which we have judged agent orange cases for two decades. currently, vietnam veterans are
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presumed to be service-connected when the v.a. secretary determines that a positive association exists between exposure to agent orange and a certain disease. one of the reasons that congress chose that mechanism is because it was impossible for these veterans to prove their exposure to agent orange caused their cancers or other diseases. these veterans were exposed decade ago. they do not know exactly where they were he is supposed or how much they inhaled. however, under the senator from oklahoma's amendment, vietnam veterans would be asked to now prove the impossible. they'd be asked to prove that they would never have gotten cancer or heart disease or any other disease or condition if not for agent orange. vietnam veterans who have diabetes or prostate cancer or lung cancer or bloodborne diseases would be denied care and benefits under this amendment. and not only would this be a new
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hurdle vietnam veterans could never overcome it would change the rules midstream. it would treat vietnam veterans different from those with diseases that have not been associated with agent orange exposure. i will not deny that compensation foyer exposure is a difficult issue and one that we continually have to look at. we've grappled with this issue in relation to vietnam veterans and exposure to agent orange and today we din to deal with this issue as iraq and afghanistan veterans come home with their exposure to toxins released from burn pits. but ultimately, we have to look at the facts with reason and compassion and weigh the years of our military's failure to track these exposures, the inevitable existence of
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unsernghts and the word of our veterans. and that's exactly what we have to do here. on the one hand, we have thousands of veterans who have come forward and believe that their cancers and ailments were caused by an exposure to a known killer. you have studies that show veterans that were exposed to agent orange are more like toy have heart disease or cancer or other conditions. you have the institute of medicine that has recommended gichg veterans the benefit of the doubt and you have the secretary of veterans affairs who has decided that we must move forward to provide compensation to presumively service-connected veterans exposed to agent orange for cancer and heart disease. on the other hand, you may have a compelling fiscal case, but the senator from oklahoma hasn't presented one shred of evidence that agent orange does not cause heart disease or cancer or any other condition. what has been presented is an amendment that asks veterans to
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wait, wait, wait until there's more scientific evidence. well, mr. president, these veterans have been waiting for 40 years. how much longer should they wait? the secretary of veterans affairs decided that the time for waiting was over. i ask that we respect and support his decision, and we remember that even in the midst of thiswhile wind debt and deficit debate, we have made a promise to our veterans, one that doesn't go away. mr. president, vietnam veterans have paid enough for that war. they should not end up paying for our debt. it's us who owe them a debt. thank you, mr. president. i yield the floor. mr. sessions: mr. president? the presiding officer: the snoer from alabama is recognized. mr. hatch: i would ask unanimous consent that we be allowed to participate in a colloquy. the presiding officer: without objection.
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mr. sessions: mr. president, many of our good colleagues like to suggest our nation has historic deficits because the american people are not taxed enough. some even claim the so-called bush tax cuts are the culprit. but the numbers tell a different story. in fact, these tax cuts were fully implemented in 2003. annual revenues have increased steadily from $1.782 trillion to $2.524 trillion in 2008, increased every year. as an increase of more than 40%, and that's double the rate of inflation, after the tax cuts took effect. in fact -- since 2008, the recession and the weakest economic recovery in modern history, it's true that revenue has now declined. that makes sense with high unemployment, there are fewer taxpayers and naturally revenue
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declines. going forward, however, the congressional budget office projects revenue aas a share of the g.d.p. of the economy will rise to the 18.4% point of g.d.p. by 2021. and that's assuming the extension -- not the elimination -- of 2001, 2003 tax deduction reductions. revenue is therefore projected to return to its historical 18.4% average. it would seem then that the american people are already taxed enough to finance a government whose spending has grown wildly out of control. the real problem is that while revenue will return to its historic average, if nothing is done to slow spending, annual outlays will increase from $3.7 trillion today to $5.7 trillion by 2021, an increase of more
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than 50% as a share of g.d.p. outlays will remain -- spending will remain, on average, above 23% of g.d.p. that's nearly three percentage points above the historical average. mr. hatch: well, i could not agree more with your point on the real driver of our deficit and debt. we have this debt because government is spending too much. this is not a matter of personal preference. this is an indisputable and empirically verifiable fact. the systemic problem that this country faces is too much spending, not too little tax revenue. i understand that our friends on the other side cht aisle are in a tough spot. they know this, but their left-wing base reed fuses any changes to the spending program and they don't want to scare off the middle-class americans by recommending tax increases necessary to close the gap without major changes to
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spending prassments so when it comes to offering up any real plans, this is what they've resorted to right here. they chose to ignore the real problem and they hope that their friends in the media do the same thing, ignore the fact that they're ignoring the problem and sticking their heads in the sand. auction see from this chart, that problem is spending. mr. sessions: well, our friends on the other side of the aisle are almost exclusively focusing on hitting up the taxpayer for more revenue. mr. hatch: that's right. they're talking about revenue but the tax increases are more distracting than illuminating. i think it is fair to say that all of the talk by the president and hit congressional allies about corporate jets and yachtes is a classic red herring. where that? well, on this chart, the name of this fallacy comes from a sport
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of tax hunting in which a dried, smoked her which is red in doll or, is dragged across the trail off the of the fume to throw the hounds off the screants. thus, a retd herring argument is one which distracts the audience from the issue of question through the introduction of some i recall religion van sivment -- irrelevancy. mr. sessions: i am sure it is worth discussion how politicians use it. mr. hatch: well, as you can see, that's what they're doing. i'm glad you bring this up. i did some research and found that the term "red herring" comes from the sport of fox hunting and that red herring something one which distracts the audience from the issues of relevancy. all of these tax issues that president obama notice notice kn the other side of the aisle we're discussion are red herrings. meant to distract the americans and the real choices that
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democrats have to but are refusing to make. let me walk through some examples. if we were to raise the depreciable life on corporate jets from five years to seven years as the democrats propose, it would yield $3.1 billion over ten years. and how many -- i'd just say -- mr. sessions: well, how many days of debt reduction over that ten-year period would a $3 billion savings or increase in taxes amount to? mr. hatch: well, you know, to hear the president talking, you would think that this is the key. to balancing our budget. we all know that he is overstating the case. but it would provide at least a month of debt reduction. i think that's about all it would do. given its essential role in his deficit-reduction proposals, you would hope so but i am sorry to disappoint my friend from alabama. cog to our calculations, that
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amount equates to only 24 hours and 23 minutes of the debt over the next ten years. so unfortunately that doesn't even solve -- that doesn't even begin to solve the problem. and of course as you can see here, $13 trillion, the obama debt. there would be $3,100,000 over time for corporate jet taxes and remaining obama debt coo assuming that they didn't spend more, which is an assumption you can't make. it would be $12,-9d 96,900,000,000 remaining debilities. is the problem solved? of course not. mr. sessions: well, let me just say, i appreciate the work of the ranking member of the finance committee and longtime member of that committee. so it seems to me pretty clearly that under the president's budget that he submitted earlier this year, which i have to say was voted down 97-0 in the
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united states senate, his budget would have increased the deficit over ten years by $13,000,000,000,000, and he suggested that his plan to reduce -- increase taxes on corporate jets by $3 billion would somehow make a difference in that. and i think, senator hatch, you're right. that that's not accurate. how about other proposals we hear from the democrats, senator hatch? cutting back mortgage interest deduction for yachts, as used for second homes. mr. hatch: well, in other words, by our calculations, the savings from this proposal would be even more meager. if congress enacted this change, we could cover the debt from the obama budget for all of 15 hours and 47 minutes. again, thi this does not solvent problems of the burdensome debt the president is piling on. mr. sessions: well, it is shocking to see how small those
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numbers are. and we aren't really hearing that in the press and the national discussions. the talk we've heard about these proposals, you'd think they'd yield more than two days of debt reduction over ten years. mr. hatch: you would think so, but the other 3,651 davis debt under the ten-year obama budget would not even be touched. there is a third red herring that has been thrown out there, maybe that one closes the gap. we've all heard the president talk about hitting american oil companies by reducing or eliminating domestic energy incentives. now, this is a real priority of his. and of congressional democrats. we had a cloture vote on a bill by our friend from new jersey to extract $21 billion in revenue from u.s. oil companies much the finance committee had a hearing where the other side touted the benefits of this tax increase by grill grilling the c.e.o.'s of the top five oil companies. if you listen to my friend on the other sierksd one would think that an additional $21
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billion would solve all of our fiscal problems. their rhetoric suggests that this is the only thing standing between more money to send kids to college and provide school lunges p. but i wonder if my friend from alabama might put into perspective how much of the ten years of debt on the president's budget this proposal would cover. mr. sessions: with $13 billion -- $13 trillion, that's $13,000 billion, $21 billion won't amount to much. mr. hatch: here's how many days of the ten-year debt of the obama budget would be covered. keep in mind that this proposal originated from our friend from new jersey, the head of the senate democratic campaign operation, and his tag team mairkts the head of the senate democratic message operation, the so-called war room, the senior senator from new york. i will let others decide whether this proposal is more political than substan tivment but people should at least know the facts about this proposal before deciding. and as the deficit-reduction proposal, this is very weak tea.
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this is a much-ballyhooed proposal and it would cover the deficit for actuality five day, 18 hours, and 47 minutes. here is the oil rig proposal. you got a $13 trillion debt, actually it is about $13.5 trillion debt right noi now. you would save $21 billion on the oil and gas extra taxes, and even at that we'd have a remaininremaining respectremainf $12,978,900,000,000. is the problem coved? of course not. session senator hatch, you have herved on the finance committee for a number of years. now the senior ranking republican there. mr. sessions: if you listen to our friends on the other side of the aisle, it would appear that all fiscal problems could be resolved by taxing millionaires.
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is that something you're familiar with, that argument? mr. hatch: i sure am. anybody watching c-span will see our friends on the other side make the argument day in and day out. when i hear this act, i often think of a saying from a distinguished former chairman of the senate finance committee, senator russell long. when talking about tax reform, he said, "some might reduce the politics to this. don't tax you, don't tax me, tax that fellow behind the tree." since there are a lot more folks who aren't millionaires than are the democrats have calculated that the politics of class warfare works. all of our problems could be solved if the rich just paid their fair share, according to the democrats. as politics, this might sound -- i don't even think is sound good. but as tax policy. as a proposal to reduce our deficits and deshts that is fourth red herring. it does not come close to fixing the deficits from the obama
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budget. my friends on the other side frequently cite the tax policy center or t.p.c. for tax data. knacks some sense. it is a professional think tank that is a joint venture of the urban institute and the brookings institution. with the exception of its director, donald morund, t.c.p. is largely staffed by highly qualified tax professionals who worked in democratic treasury departments and democratic hill offices. t.p.c. is a solid, professional outfit but you can't ignore its institutional perspective. to be fair, i'd say the same thing about the heritage foundation. their institutional perspective is more lik likely to line up wh folks on my side of the aisle. i am drawing from t.p.c. data, some assumptions i might not agree with. according to estimates, for 2011, american households earning more than $1 million account for 12% of the nation's
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pretax income. they pay 19% of federal taxes and carry an average tax rate of 29%. even more critical from my per peculiarive, these taxpayers also account for 38% of all flow-through income. that's primarily earnings through the businesses of small businesses. so raising rates on the rich will squarely hit those who create and expand the small businesses who need to the engine of our economic recovery. but let's be clear about something. higher taxes on these wealthy individuals will not only have adverse economic consequences, it will not even provide the deficit and debt reduction suggested by the left. even if all the income, every dime that they earned, of those earning more than $1 million were confiscated with 100% rate with the unlikely assumption of no taxpayer behavioral response for the year of confiscation, these higher taxes would yield about $893 billion.
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now, that would be a one-time confiscation. surely, none of these folks would continue to work, save, or invest in the future if the government were going to confiscate all their income. they'd have to cover all of their other expenses, including state and local taxes, from savings. and after taking everything from the folks behind the tree in this case, the folks earning more than $1 million, how many days of the ten-year obama budget debt would be eliminated? mr. sessions: well, not many, in answer to that. but as on whic often as the pret talks about taxing the rich or spreading the wealth around as a cure for our fiscal problems, you would think it would balance the budget. but would it get us there? mr. hatch: well, i say to my friend from alabama, confiscating all the income from those earning over $1 million does not even fix one year of the ten years of projected obama
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debt. it would cover 244 days, 16 hours, and 34 minutes. that's it. not even one year. and federal policy -- just look at this. and federal policy-makers could kiss that revenue source goodbye after an event like confiscation. so there you are, $13 trillion, take the $893 billion, if we take every dime that millionaires make this next year, the $893 billion, we'd be down to $12,107,000,000,000 remaining debt. is the problem solved? of course not. mr. sessions: well, going back to the other chart on taxation and spending under the obama budget, i would note that president obama's budget raised taxes significantly, increased spending even more, and as a result over the ten years created more debt projected than if he'd made no budget at all.
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which is a stunning thing. but you can talk about raising taxes on the american workers, on families, on small business businesses, on the wealthy and investors all you want, but this talk is easy. it ignores the root causes of 9 deficit and debt problem here -- the root causes of the deficit and debt problem here in washington: out-of-control spending. it may sound cliche to the american people that republicans are always talking about out-of-control spending. we wish it were a joke. mr. hatch: yeah, i wish it was. mr. sessions: it's sadly true. mr. hatch: i wish it was too. i'm surprised by this debate. the president is not pushing democrats on what a joke their proposal is about jets and yachts are. but the american people that i represent in utah understand that these are red herrings. these proposals deal with the president's legacy of debt for two days, less than two days, over the next ten years. add in the much-publicized tax
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hit on the oil companies, you get five days. so all the demagoguery on jets and oil companies and yachts and planes, you get a one-week debt reduction. and even compensating for all the taxpayers over $1 million, you can only add 244 days. add it all up, and there's still less than one year, all those tax increases don't even get to 1/10th of the debt president obama will add over the next ten years. it's just class warfare and we all know that. all the talk from the white house and from our friends on the other side is on behalf of proposals that would address, at best, less than 10% of the debt forced on american families by the president's budget. i ask my friend from alabama if he might conclude with the classic definition of a red herring. mr. sessions: well, let's take another look at the definition of red herring on your chart. it says, "the name of this fallacy comes from the sport of fox hunting in which a dried, smoked herring, which is red in
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color, is dragged across the trail of the fox to throw the hounds off the scent. thus, a red herring argument is one which distracts the audience from the issue in question through the introduction of some irrelevancy." our friends on the other side using white house talking points, sophisticatedly prepared, appear to have resorted to red herrings with their deficit-reduction proposals. they want the american people to think that a few easy tax increases on the rich or yacht owners or corporate jet users or oil companies, the people behind the tree, can solve our debt crisis without spending reforms. they hope that these red herrings will hide a serious democratic vulnerability if they are not going to address spending in a serious way, massive tax increases on the middle class will be a necessity. these red herrings are designed to throw those citizens who care
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deeply about reducing the the $13 trillion debt that the present budget will incur off the trail. the trail of deficit reduction leads to one of two places. restraining out-of-control spending or crushing tax relief increases on middle-class families. restraining spending is not a red herring. it cuts to the heart of our fiscal problems. it goes to the root of the problem. the president, his allies, need to come clean with the american people. the president so far has refused to present a deficit reduction plan. and these negotiations go on. he says he has one, but we never see it, so it can be scored and analyzed. the white house seems content to produce cheap talking points justifying these red herrings rather than meaningfully addressing our debt crisis. as i have said before and will
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again, this shows a disrespect, i think, for the american people. our people deserve better. they need honest, fair analyses of the problems we face. i expect that they will reward those, however, who talk straight with them and offer serious grown-up efforts to address our debt with their support, and i think they will be unhappy if we -- once it's realized how little these proposals would impact the huge debt crisis we're now facing. mr. hatch: i thank my colleague for his fine remarks. i have to say that not only would it not impact but it would impact a lot of jobs. i remember when we did the yacht tax back in the early 1990's, the left just thought that was a wonderful thing. we would get after all these rich yacht owners. when they found out that thousands and thousands of jobs were lost because of that bill, they immediately turned tail and got rid of the bill pretty
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doggone quickly afterwards. and what we haven't said is we're assuming the $13 trillion is going to stay the same. actually, in the next ten years, there is a good chance it will double to over $20 trillion and possibly as high as $25 trillion or $26 trillion the way this administration is spending. and, frankly, if we get there, we're going to have a very difficult time overcoming this hole that we're in right now. all i can say is that i like the president personally, but, you know, he hasn't presented a program. he's calling on congress to do it all. we have our various problems here in getting together, but he hasn't led on these programs and neither have the other people down at the white house. in fact, one of the problems is i can't name one person at the white house who has ever created a private sector job. and, you know, let's face it, they are good at creating public sector jobs but they are not very good at creating private sector jobs. the real answer to our debt
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problems is to work our way out of them and instead of talking about shared sacrifice, let's talk about shared prosperity by allowing the engine of this economy, the small business community to really pull us out. and even so, we haven't even talked about the fact that the deficit this year just in one year is $1.6 trillion, is $1.6 trillion, $1.5 trillion, is $1.6 trillion, $1.5 trillion, $1.6 trillion, and i might add that we're going to have at least probably close to to $1 trillion deficit every year under the president's own trade barrierial program every year up to 2020. you can imagine how we're going to increase the debt without doing anything about it. and, frankly, that's if his actuaries are right, and they are usually always wrong on the low side. that includes actuaries on both sides, to be honest with you. the expenses have always been more. and i think what's important here is that we -- we get real about working together and coming up with a way of resolving these tremendous debt problems.
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the future of our young people in this country depend on that, and i just don't want to let them down. i want to thank my colleague for his colloquy with me, and i appreciate it very much. with that, i suggest the absence -- i yield the floor. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll of the senate. quorum call: nendez: i ask unanis
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consent the quorum call be vitiated. the presiding officer: without objection, the senator from new jersey is recognized. mr. menendez: mr. president, i came to the floor, i heard an interesting colloquy going on between my colleagues, my friend from utah and my friend from alabama, and i saw that my name was invoked so i thought i would come to the floor and maybe elucidate for them and set the record a little bit straight. number one is i am no longer the chair of the democratic senatorial campaign committee, so my focus in ending the tax
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breaks that the big five oil companies in this country get to the tune of $21 billion, of $21 billion, $21 billion that the taxpayers of this country give in essence to the big five oil companies who will make make $144 billion in profits this year, i just simply think don't need it in order to be able to achieve what the marketplace has allowed them to do, and i'm happy for them. i'm happy for all their stockholders and shareholders and everyone else, but they don't need $21 billion of the taxpayers' money and two breaks. which, by the way, they describe them as these poor oil companies that, wow, we're going to stop domestic production. one of thes that i want to finish, mr. president, actually says you can't be doing what you're doing when you're here in the united states when you get access to the lands or waters of the united states to drill for oil and gas, you pay a royalty. basically a royalty is a license
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fee. now, the oil companies figured out, well, when i do this in other countries in the world, instead of paying a license fee, let me ask them to pay a tax for the same amount that it would have cost to pay a license fee. why? because then i get the tax and i get to deduct it totally against my obligations here in the united states, which means that those poor oil companies that i just heard about, we are in essence as taxpayers, subsidizing the exploration of foreign oil which goes on a world marketplace -- it doesn't come back to the united states -- at the tune of $21 billion. now, if we want to talk about poor, i want to talk about poor people who republicans seem to want to go after their budget, the essence of the things they
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need to be able to get through every day. it's called medicare for seniors and the disabled. i know it from my mother's own life, who worked in the factories of new jersey, worked a lifetime to help build family and community, had a terrible disease in alzheimer's, and she would not have lived with the dignity she deserved in the twilight of her life but for what my sister and i were able to do for her and medicare as her baseline for security. that's what i call poor. i call poor a young child who through no fault of their own under medicaid is getting specific health care needs that they desperately need in order to have the quality of life to be even able to breathe with respiratory ailments so that they can fulfill their god-given potential in school. that's about poor. but oil companies that are going to make $144 billion in profits, they're poor? please, give me a break.
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and i know that we belittle the fact that, well, it's only $21 billion that we would put directly to deficit reduction. but, you know, if we start putting those $21 billion and then put the billions in ethanol subsidies and then the horse-racing industry and the corporate jets and you start adding it all up, and maybe if instead of working-class -- middle-class working families that we seem to want to put all the emphasis on by our republican colleagues here in the congress, we talk about the wealthiest people in the country and said to them, you know what? we really need you to help the country get out of this difficult time. they would be, i think, incredibly patriotic. i've talked to a lot of wealthy people who told me, you know, if it's to help the country and we're going to get our house in order, i'm willing to help the country. i'm willing to pay a little bit more. but that's not possible to even
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talk about, not possible to talk about big oil companies that are going to make record numbers of profits, not possible to talk about ethanol, not possible to talk about the wealthiest in the country, millionaires, multi millionaires and billionaires. and yet, i didn't hear any of these voices when ronald reagan raised the debt ceiling 17 times for the equivalent of $4 trillion in today's moneys. i never heard any of these voices say how irresponsible it was when george bush raised it seven times for $5 trillion, basically the same amount of money that he used to give tax cuts to the wealthiest people in the country, but for which became the collective debt of the united states. no, i didn't hear any of it then. so i had no intention, mr. president, of coming to the floor. but when the facts are wrong and
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my name is invoked, i intend to come set the record straight, and i'm happy to debate my colleagues on this fact. we need to make sure that working-class, middle-class families in this country do not bear the overwhelming amount of the consequences of our effort to strive to end our deficits and meet our obligations. and we cannot continue to hear that poor oil companies, poor corporate jets, poor multimillionaires and billionaires can't close the loopholes in the tax code all because that would somehow be a tax increase. but we can take right out of the pockets of middle class and poor families by virtue of the services we die n.i.h. them, that -- the services we deny them, they will not have the
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money to produce or scrounge what little they have to be able to acquire and say that is somehow not a tax increase. i hear about entitlements all the time. i've got a new sense of what my republican colleagues mean by entitlements. the oil companies are entitled to their $21 billion, and those are just two provisions, mr. president. i could come up with a whole bunch of others that they get tax breaks for. oil companies are entitled. ethanol producers, they're entitled. the large agribusinesses in the country, they're entitled. but families who struggle every day to make ends meet, they're not entitled. we have to cut their entitlements. something's wrong with that equation, mr. president. the nation at the end of the day, in its budget, talks about its values as a country. we all have a budget. we may not think about it as a budget in our personal lives, but it's income by however we
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derive it through gainful employment, the job that we have, maybe some investments that we make, maybe some interest we get from our savings. that's our revenue. and then there is our expenditures. the house that we keep for our family, insurance we provide for their health care, the education, the tuition we pay for the education we want them to achieve, the church or synagogue that we tithe to, the charitable contribution we make to an organization that we believe is worthy of the work that we do, that's an expression of our personal values. and the nation's budget, which is both revenues and expenditures, is an skpegs of our collective -- is an expression of our collective values as a country. and i just cannot understand in that expression of collective values how it is that the very wealthy, that the very influential, that big oil is
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entitled, but working-class families and the poorest among us are not entitled to be able to realize their hopes and dreams and aspirations in the greatest country in the face of the earth. any how, i wanted to come, mr. president, because i heard my name invoked. i think the facts were not quite up to par, and there is obviously a different view. having had the opportunity, mr. president, to set the record straight, i observe the absence of a quorum. quorum call: senator: madam pre.
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the presiding officer: the senator from pennsylvania. a senator: i ask unanimous consent to vitiate the call to quorum. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. toomey: thank you, madam president. i wanted to take this occasion to acknowledge a very important event that occurred last night. it occurred in the other body where we had a vote for the first time since we have been deliberating and debating and wrestling with this challenge of what to do with our debt limit and the fact that we have reached that debt limit. we have had a vote by one of the two bodies that has a say in this matter on this very issue, and the house voted yesterday by a significant margin with a bipartisan vote, although it was mostly one-sided. there were members of both
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parties that voted in favor of raising the debt limit. the house voted to raise the debt limit, in fact by the full amount that the president requested. the house voted to raise the debt limit by $2.4 trillion which would completely eliminate this problem, this struggle that we have had over this looming deadline that we have been -- we have been given. now, the house vote to do so came with one condition, came with a condition that the president join congress in putting our federal government on a path to a balanced budget. that's the requirement. that's the contingency. and the way the house bill achieves that is by establishing three parts. the first are cuts in spending. the second part are caps on spending, and the third is a balanced budget amendment to the constitution and the colloquial name that this approach has been
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given is the cut, cap and balance approach. this is a big deal because until last night, among the three parties to this debate, the house of representatives, the senate and the president, nobody had previously laid out a case that says here is how we will raise this debt limit and deal with this problem. the house has now done so. they have passed this measure by a significant margin. i want to just quickly walk through the three elements of it, the cuts, the caps and the balance, and they are really all different pieces designed to achieve one goal, which is to put our federal budget on a path to balance. the cut refers to cuts in spending in this next fiscal year which begins soon. it begins on october 1. the cut is 3% from this year's spending level, 3%. under the house-passed plan next year, we would spend 90% of
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everything that we're spending this year, but we cut 3%. now, anybody who has run a business, anybody who has run a household knows that if you have to, you can cut 3% from any big budget. i guarantee you from the enormously bloated and oversized oversized $3.7 trillion of the u.s. government's budget, 3% is not much, but that's the cut. that's the first part. that's the level of spending for next year, about 3%, 3%, $111 billion. the next part are caps. these are statutory limits to how much the federal government would be permitted to spend in each of the subsequent years for the next ten years. now, these levels have spending grow every year. some suggest that these are draconian, savage cuts in spending, actually it's increases, but it's increases in spending at a slower rate than what we have had in the past and slower certainly than what others have proposed, what the president's budget proposed and
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what the congressional budget office is expecting, and therein lies savings, therein lies the opportunity to put us on a path to a balanced budget because i think we all acknowledge that, unfortunately, we're not going to be able to achieve a balanced budget overnight. can't do it, we have dug too deep a hole. we need a little time to get there. the spending caps provide that discipline as we move in that direction, and the final piece is a balanced budget amendment to the constitution, which is something that most americans have strongly supported for a long time, and if we achieve that, then, frankly, we would never have to worry about raising the debt limit any more because we wouldn't run a deficit. we would be forbidden. without a deficit, you don't need to issue new debt, so the debt would never rise and this problem would be permanently resolved. much more importantly, we would have our federal government on a sustainable, strong, viable
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fiscal path, and that would create the opportunity for strong economic growth. see, i'm convinced that part of the reason we're having such a weak economy and such poor job growth is because the uncertainty that we have created, not so much over whether we're going to raise the debt limit on august 2 or 3 or 1, it's are we going to solve the big fiscal challenge that we face. the problems that are dragging down europe now and the problems that loom for us. now, the president and the treasury secretary have been extremely alarmed about the prospect that we might not raise the debt limit on august 2. to that very point, the treasury secretary said, and i quote from a may 13 letter that he sent to members of congress. he said -- "this would be an unprecedented event in american history." by which he is referring to a failure to raise the debt limit." a default would inflict far-reaching catastrophic damage
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on our nation's economy, reducing growth and increasing unemployment." president obama had a similar message of great alarm, in addition referring to a snow in which we did not raise the debt limit by august 2, he said if the investors in the world thought the full faith and credit of the united states was not being backed up, if they thought we could renege on our i.o.u.'s, it could unravel the financial system, we could have a worse financial crisis than we already had. this is how serious the president and the treasury secretary say is their concern that we raise the debt limit. well, the house just did it. the house has said, mr. president, we hereby vote and they did vote to raise the debt limit by $2.4 trillion, the full amount that the president asked for, and they have said the only condition is that you, mr. president, need to join us in putting our budget on a path
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to balance. taking care of this fiscal crisis and giving us a sustainable fiscal footing so we can have strong economic growth. and so the question today before us is will the president join us? will the president embrace this? the president, as i have just quoted, has indicated great alarm at the prospect of not getting the debt limit increased that he's asked for. the house has just said here it is, and actually i think if not every republican senator, a big majority of republican senators will support what the house has done, and i hope that there will be many democrats who will support this as well. because none of us wants to test the proposition of what happens if we don't raise that debt limit. and so the opportunity is here now. for the first time, we have -- a bill has been passed in one of these two bodies that would do exactly what the president has asked for, with just this one condition. and let me -- let me comment for
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a moment on one of the reasons why i think it's so important that the president join us in putting our budget on a path to a balance. we have heard from various rating agencies that several of them are considering downgrading the credit standing of the united states. this is an appalling thought to me. i was involved in the bond market in my first career when i got out of college, and the united states stood above ratings. we didn't talk about having a aaa rating because we were above even that. our rating was so superior to anyone else that it didn't even -- a rating system didn't even apply to the united states. well, now not only does it apply but the danger is that we won't even qualify for the top rating. and do you know what it is that will cause them to downgrade the debt of the united states? it's not a failure to raise the debt limit by august 2. it's the failure to address this fiscal imbalance, these massive,
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unsustainable deficits. that's what they have told us has to be corrected or else the downgrade follows and a downgrade will be enormously problematic because it has all kinds of effects. so we have heard about a lot of different ideas that have been floated. and i -- i want to congratulate and commend everybody who has been involved in putting in a lot of effort. i don't agree with everything that everybody has talked about doing, but i think we have seen people in both parties make a good-faith effort to try to solve this problem one way or another, but the fact is there is only one proposal on the table that has passed either body, and there is only one proposal that actually solves our long-term fiscal challenge in the law that's already been passed, in the bill that's already been passed. and so my question is now will the president join us and put our government on a path to a balanced budget? we don't expect to get there overnight.
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and by the way, the various levels of cuts and spending and exact terms of the balanced budget amendment naturally would be subject to discussion. but will the president join us in this effort to restore fiscal sanity and give us the basis for strong economic growth? that's the question and that's the opportunity for the president. now, i know the president has been dismissive of the idea of balancing our budget, but i certainly hope that he is not so opposed to balancing our budget that he would reject the debt limit increase that he has said we desperately need. there is an opportunity here to solve two problems at once. to solve this problem over the looming date of august 2 by which he has said we absolutely must raise the debt limit, but the more important opportunity is to put our house in fiscal order. the house took a very, very important step in that direction. the senate will have a vote later this week. i hope my colleagues in the senate will embrace this opportunity and the president will join us and we'll put our
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federal government on a path to balance. and with that, madam president, i yield the floor. the presiding officer: morning business is closed. a senator: madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from oregon. mr. merkley: madam president, i ask unanimous consent to have five minutes to speak as if in morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. merkley: thank you, madam president. i rise to address senator wyden's amendment number 570 regarding the closure of the umatilla chemical depot. it is a measure i'm proud to partner with him in. this is a very important issue to my home state of oregon. we have a situation where at this depot, 20 years of planning have gone forward to arrange for
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the final transition of this chemical depot based on the base realignment and closing commission's recommendations. indeed, the bracc commission as it is known noted that -- quote -- "on completion of the chemical demille tarrization mission in accordance with treaty obligations, close the umatilla chemical depot in oregon." unquote. and this was language that was specifically done to recognize that the chemical depot had to complete its work dismantling the chemical weapons stored there, according to the chemical weapons convention treaty, and that that treaty had a deadline of april 29, 2012, and thus it wasn't clear that the work would be done within the six years outlined for most of the bracc's work, and so they changed the
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language from close umatilla chemical depot to on completion of the chemical demilitarized mission in accordance with treaty obligations. so since this has been a discussion for so long, with the community working so hard, with so many stakeholders in order to put the plans together to transition this base to a productive civilian role, it came as a complete shock recently when the community was notified by the army that despite the specific language that accommodated the treaty deadline of april, 2012, they were going to rule that the transfer under the bracc legislation could not be completed because it was an exception -- even an exception written into law -- to the initial six years.
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this is quite a shock because a local reuse authority has been formed and is working hard with representatives from all local stakeholders to make sure that this base is transferred in a way that creates the best possible economy and best use of this land. it's been a complicated task. it's been an earnest effort. this is not the time for the army to change the rules, digging up a clause and misapplying that clause, ignoring the exception written into the law and claiming that these, this work done over all of this time doesn't matter. so that is why i am so delighted to join with senator wyden in putting clarification into statute that says, yes, what the
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original legislation said with an april 2012 deadline, recognizing our treaty obligations, must be honored, and the brac process must be honored for the best use of this land in the community. thank you, madam president. the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota. mr. johnson: i ask unanimous consent to return to morning business. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. johnson: madam president, i quote former reagan economic
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advisor bartlett on house republican plan. distributionally, the ryan plan is a monstrosity. the rich would receive huge tax cuts while the social security safety net would be shredded to pay for them. even as an opening bid to begin budget negotiations with the democrats, the ryan plan cannot be taken seriously. it is a less of a wish list than a fairy tale utterly disconnected from the real world, backed up by make-believe numbers and unreasonable assumptions. ryan's plan isn't even an act of courage. it's just pandering to the tea party. a real act of courage would have been for him to admit, as all serious budget analysts know, that revenues will have to rise well above 19% of g.d.p. to
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stabilize the debt. former reagan administration economic advisor bruce bartlett from capital gains and games blog, imbalanced budget. i would want to clarify the impact of the balanced budget proposal. he has called it sheer idiocy. that comes from a reagan economic advisor. i yield back and note the -- a senator: madam president, i ask unanimous consent to set aside the pending amendment and
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to call up my amendment 575, which is at the desk. the presiding officer: the senator from new hampshire. is there objection? without objection, the clerk will report. the clerk: the senator from new hampshire, ms. ayotte, proposes an amendment numbered 575. a senator: i ask unanimous consent further reading of the amendment be dispensed with. the presiding officer: without objection. ms. ayotte: thank you, madam president. i have filed an amendment to h.r. 2055 that seeks to make sure that our wounded warriors get the benefits of next-generation advanced prosthetics in a timely fashion. this amendment would require the secretary of veterans affairs to submit to congress a report within 90 days identifying the bureaucratic hurdles and red tape that we need to cut through to make sure that the research that is being done and the
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next-generation advanced prosthetics that are being developed to help our wounded warriors will get to them as quickly as possible. we have invested substantial taxpayer dollars, including through the defense advanced research projects agency, or darpa, in developing this great technology in advanced-next generation prosthetics. last week i had the chance to go to walter reed hospital and meet with some of our wounded warriors. they are absolutely amazing americans, and what they have done for our country is incredible. we can never repay the sacrifices that they have made. but the last thing that they should have to put up with is waiting for years of delay through the f.d.a. or other government agencies to make sure that they can get the very best technology available for next-generation advanced
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prosthetics. and that is why i offer this amendment, and i hope that this amendment will be passed to make sure that we can cut through the red tape, that the veterans administration will identify any hurdles that are present, that we can get through those hurdles and get that technology to our wounded warriors as soon as possible given what they have done for our country and continue to do in fighting on our behalf. they are heroes, and they deserve to not have to wait and wade through government bureaucracy. thank you, madam president. i suggest the absence of a quorum. a senator: madam president? the presiding officer: will the senator withhold your suggestion? ms. ayotte: yes, i will. thank you. mrs. boxer: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from california. mrs. boxer: madam president, i ask unanimous consent to set aside the pending amendments and call up amendment number 577. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection, the clerk will report. the clerk: the senator from california, mrs. boxer, proposes an amendment numbered 577.
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mrs. boxer: i ask that the amendment be considered as read, and i just have about one minute to talk on it right now. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. boxer: madam president, the department of defense runs schools that serve over 86,000 children across america, europe and the pacific region. that's why i was able to get together with senator graham and senator inhofe to work on a way that we could get those schools fixed, because they're crumbling. since a picture is worth a thousand words, i'll just show this picture from one of the schools. you can see the tiles on the roof just crumbling. we've had that in our public schools before we woke up. literally, these tiles fall down, and it's just by the grace of god that a child doesn't get hit or a teacher doesn't get hit and very hurt. so clearly, we need to do something about it. what i'd like to say is that we started off with an amendment
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that actually required the d.o.d. to fix up these schools. now we're asking for a report that they do it because we have to avoid some parliamentary procedure problems of legislating on aprops. so we believe we've done this. i think everyone should read last month's "newsweek." they published an investigation by the center for integrity which documented the condition of d.o.d.-run schools with serious problems: leaks, corrosion and mold and overcrowding and relying on temporary facilities. my amendment had the strong support of the national military families association. they sent me a statement. i'll close with this. d.o.d. schools, especially at u.s. installations overseas, are a community focal point and a key element in the support network for our military families stressed by a decade of war. poorly repaired or out-of-date buildings can also create the
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perception among military families that their children's education is not a priority for our nation. so i urge support for this bipartisan amendment, and i would yield the floor. mr. reid: madam president? the presiding officer: the majority leader. mr. reid: i ask unanimous consent the johnson kirk amendment be modified further with the changes tefrbg and senator -- changes at the desk and senator warner be arrested as a -- senator warner be added. following reporting of the hutchison amendments the following pending amendments be agreed to: johnson-kirk, wyden 562, hutchison 563. the pending mccain amendment 553 be withdrawn, no other amendments nor points of order be in order and the applicable motion to waive and that at 4:45 p.m. today the senate proceed to a vote in relation to the following amendments in order listed below: ayotte 575,
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boxer 577, coburn 564. that upon disposition of the coburn amendment, the substitute amendment as amended be agreed to, the bill be read a third time and the senate proceed to vote and passage of the bill and the motion to reconsider be considered made and laid on the table. finally, upon passage the senate insist on its amendment, request a conference with the house on the disagreeing votes twaoft houses and the chair be authorizeed to appoint conferees on the part of the senate with a ratio of 9 to 8. the presiding officer: is there objection snowe. mr. reid: i would ask -- is there objection? mr. reid: i would ask this be modified so there be two minutes between votes. the presiding officer: without objection, so ordered. the clerk will report the hutchison amendments. the clerk: the senator from texas, mrs. hutchison, proposes amendments numbered 562 and 563.
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senior senator. the presiding officer: amendments 556 is modified 570, 562 and 563 are agreed to. amendment 553 is withdrawn. the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: madam president, i rise in support of the coburn amendment and ask unanimous consent to engage in a colloquy with the senator from oklahoma. the presiding officer: without objection. mr. mccain: madam president, i think it's important for us to understand what this amendment is about. it does not affect the decisions
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regarding disability as a result of agent orange that have already been decided under the guidelines that were extended by the secretary of veterans affairs. this will be -- this is a prospective amendment, so any allegation that this is somehow, affects previous awarding of disability payments is not correct. it's a prospective amendment for cases that will be decided in the future. the issue of disability is always one that is very difficult, because we start on the basis that is concerns men and women who have served honorably in the military. so obviously the predilection is appropriately to grant
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disabilities where those claims are made. but we now have a situation where somewhere around $40 billion, $31 billion simply over the issue of heart disease can be awarded without what appears to be a direct connection to agent orange. now, there were many of our men and women who were serving in the conflict in vietnam who were exposed to agent orange, but there were many, many more who were not. now, i don't think you can make a case that someone who was stationed on a ship in the gulf of tonkin somehow has a connection -- and many miles from any agent orange -- that you could make a plausible case that agent orange was the cause of this disability.
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so what this amendment tries to do is give a realistic set of programmer terse -- of parameters for the rewarding of disability or payment of disability for those who actually were exposed and not -- not only exposed but also that there is a direct connection between exposures to herbsides and the outcome. so there are many needs amongst our veterans. they're there every single day. and the purpose of this amendment is to make sure that there is a legitimate need for compensation for those who were exposed to agent orange and a direct connection between that exposure and certain
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disabilities, particularly heart disease, parkinson's disease, hodgkin's, et cetera. so what we're trying to do here is make sure that those who were actually exposed and there is a direct connection are we warde , and adequately so, but at the same time not have a situation where it is an open-ended expenditure of taxpayers' dollars. so the veterans' disability benefits commission endorsed the need for establishing a new framework for establis establis. we embrace causality and decision making. this will achieve -- this amendment will achieve that goal identified by the institute of medicine to ensure that scientifically based cas causaly is at the heart of the disability determination
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process. i would match the senator from oklahoma's and my commitment to our veterans with anyone in this body, but there also has to be some rationality associated with it. i was a great admirer of the honorable tony principi, who was a former secretary of veterans affairs. and, again, i want to quote from his statement. "if the american people lose faith in the integrity of our disability benefits systems, veterans and their families will be the ones who suffer. the surest way for that to happen is for the public to be convinced that presumptive service connection decisions are based on anything other than sound scientific advice." these presumptions, as they presently exist, are not based on sound scientific advice. so, with some, i'm sure, that
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this amendment is not popular. but i want to thank my colleague from oklahoma for bringing it to the attention of this body. mr. coburn: thank the senator from arizona and would note, we want to make sure that any veteran that has a positive cassation factor from any aspect that would lead to any disability, this we meet that need. that's not what this is about. this has been looked at two times by the institute of medicine. the first time there was no -- none of the studies they cited showed even a positive association. the last time they had two that showed some positive association, but absolutely no causation, no causation. there is a big difference in science. something can be associated with something. doesn't mean it causes it. and on the base basis of that
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the secretary committed this country to make payments to people for disabilities that are not associated with their service. so the point is, in a limited budget going forward, if we're paying for disabilities that aren't associated with service, that means we're going to have less money available to those veterans who do have a disability for their service. and we've heard, number one, that this will reverse all that have been made forward. it will not. it's prospective only. it will not change the presumption that if you were in or above vietnam, you have the presumption of being exposed to agent orange. that won't be changed at all. the previous scientific diseases that are based on causation won't be eliminated at all. but, in fact, those that aren't associated with cassality will be eliminated. now, will they be eliminated in the future? if the science at some point in time shows us that there is a
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causal relationship between that exposure and disease, then we can do something about it. but now we're throwing money at disabilities that are not associated and not caused by veterans' exposure to this herbicide. so i would ask, given where we are in this country and the fact that we're going to have a tough time funding veterans' programs in the future anyway, that we ought not spend a dollar on something that is not directly caused by a veterans's exposure to agent orange so we have that dollar to treat those that were exposed. i yield back to the senator from arizona. mr. mccain: i thank the senator from oklahoma. i have heard an neck dotally that the eligibility for disability under the guidelines, as issued by the secretary of the army -- and, by the way,
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when we're talking about $40-some billion of additional taxpayers' money, i think that that should be the subject of legislative action rather than a decision made by the secretary of the army -- excuse meshin mee secretary of veterans affairs. is it not true that anecdotally we've heard that people wh who e in the korean war and not the vietnam war have somehow become eligible and people who were on ships in the gulf of tonkin, not anywhere near agent orange, have also been declared -- mr. coburn: they are eligible, and there are some reasons t for that. but that's not what this debate is about. you know, we're not questioning it. we're just saying on this basis we're not using science, how we've used it in every other aspects of veterans' disability. now we're going beyond science
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and when you look at the total number of studies, rarely 3% or so even show any association. and association doesn't imply any causation. so what we have is we have the secretary has mad made a decisio commit this country to $42 billion of additional expenditures not based on science but on the fact that he can do that. if the committee -- the veterans' committee -- thinks that there is the science to do that, they should bring a bill to the floor and do that. but the science is not there. i've looked at it read t, i've. mr. mccain: madam president, i yield the floor.
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mr. johnson: madam president, i suggest the absence of a quorum. the presiding officer: the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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mrs. boxer: madam president, i ask unanimous consent that the boxer amendment number 5 -- and first i ask that the quorum call be dispensed with. i apologize. the presiding officer: without objection. mrs. boxer: i ask that the boxer amendment number 577 be modified with the changes that are already at the desk. the presiding officer: is there objection? without objection, so ordered.
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the clerk will call the roll. quorum call:
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the presiding officer: the senator from south dakota. mr. johnson: i ask unanimous
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consent that the quorum call be rescinded. the presiding officer: without objection. under the previous order, the -- under the previous order, the question on the amendment 575 -- all those in favor of the amendment will say aye. those opposed, no. the ayes appear to have it. the ayes have it. the amendment is agreed to. under the previous order, the question is on the boxer amendment number 577, as modified.
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all those in favor say aye. all those opposed,. no the ayes appear to have it. the ayes have it. the amendment is agreed to. there will now be two minutes of debate equally divided on the coburn amendment. mr. coburn: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from oklahoma. mr. coburn: this is a commonsense amendment that will secure disability payments for veterans and make sure we are not paying for disabilities for those that are not truly service connected, that are not based on science or causation. i know it's a tough vote but in the environment that we face today, we ought to be using science to positively connect causality with any disability that we grant. and with that, i retain the
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balance of my time. mrs. murray: madam president? the presiding officer: the senator from washington. mrs. murray: madam president, just to my colleagues know, there's a reason that we have made this type of compensation like agent orange priewmentive. it's because our -- presumptive. it's because our military did a miserable job of trablging these and no veteran will be able to go to a map and tell you where they were exposed. no veteran is going to be able to tell you how much poison they inhaled. so we have to look at the facts with reason and compassion. and in this case on the one hand, we have the knowledge that we sprayed a known killer throughout the area where these vietnam veterans were serving. we have thousands of veterans who've come forward and believe that their cancers and their ailments were caused by that exposure. we have studies that show veterans exposed to agent orange are more likely to have heart disease, cancer and other conditions. we have the institute of medicine which has recommended giving these veterans the benefit of the doubt. and we have the secretary of the
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veterans affairs who decided that we need to move forward to provide compensation. on the other hand, we have an amendment today that while it makes compelling case for saving money, it hasn't presented any evidence at all that agent orange did not cause the conditions faced by these vietnam veterans. an amendment that just asks our veterans to wait longer, something they have already done too much of. they've been waiting, they've been getting sicker, they've been dying for 40 years or more. we shouldn't ask them to wait longer. the presiding officer: time has expired. mrs. murray: thank you, madam president. i urge my colleagues to vote to table this amendment. and, madam president, if the senator wants to finish his remarks, i will move to table when he's finished. mr. coburn: madam president, i'd make one point. the institute of medicine did not recommend this. as a matter of fact, their recommendation that causality ought to be the only thing in which we do this. i would ask for the yeas and
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nays on the amendment. mrs. murray: madam president, i move to table the amendment. i ask for the yeas and nays. the presiding officer: is there a sufficient second? there appears to be. the clerk will call the roll. vote:
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